Looking for my first Wrangler! How much rust is too much?

cthom111

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Hi - interested in getting my first Wrangler. Always wanted one and now one has popped up for sale right down the street. I know rust can be an issue on these but is this too much for a frame? I'm just using it to cruise around town on the weekends...not much more than that. Any thoughts are appreciated!

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Bert McMuppet

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To really answer your question, you'll need to look inside the frame. Get an endoscope/borescope camera from Amazon. IMO, get one with its own display screen, price range $70-$100. The ones that attach to your phone usually aren't great.

That's a non-trivial amount of rust on the outside, but based on what I see, I'd say it's reparable. Factor that into your offer, if you make one. It'll be a non-trivial amount of money to pay someone to do it, or a non-trivial amount of time to DIY. I'd clean off the outside and inside of the frame, then hit the rust with a wire brush or angle grinder, and finish by applying Fluid Film to the inside and outside of the frame.

The paint bubbling is a little worrisome. You're going to need to grind that down to bare metal, removing paint around it until you don't see any more rust. I'd treat it with Evaporust, then prime & paint.
 

cpwolf

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This all depends on where you are located and the price. I’m in Texas, and I’d run from this as fast as I could. There are folks from Ohio here that post, that’ll say “this looks great, no biggie etc”.

That’s bubbling body paint is going to be a pain. The frame, it’s got some serious points of trouble, but if you’re used to fixing rust etc, what I see doesn’t look as bad as some others people have posted
 
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2001slvrstntj

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I agree, pretty rough, I would try to find a cleaner option. Close by is not a reason to buy and even cheap this will be a hassle. The torque boxes on the cab look really rusted too. Drop that skid and likely rusted through in that location. Good luck
 
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Mike Z

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Hi - interested in getting my first Wrangler. Always wanted one and now one has popped up for sale right down the street. I know rust can be an issue on these but is this too much for a frame? I'm just using it to cruise around town on the weekends...not much more than that. Any thoughts are appreciated!

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I am an Ohio guy and I would not buy this. No offense.

I have had a rusty TJ before and you will likely have issues when you try to install shocks, especially removing the rear upper bolts. It will be difficult to remove them without breaking them. Rear sway bar retainer bolts are tricky for removal with rust, not to mention your main belly skid bolts. The transmission skid bolts will need to come out when you drop the transmission pan to change the filter. I could go on...control arm bolt removal and so forth.

In contrast, I bought a jeep from Georgia and it is really nice to work on. I don't use penetrating oil or heat and can remove bolts using just a basic amount of care.
 

Andy-WhiteTJ

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As your first time purchasing a Wrangler, I would walk away from that. Unless you're ready to tear that thing down to the frame and rebuild it completely.
 
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cpwolf

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I am an Ohio guy and I would not buy this. No offense.

I have had a rusty TJ before and you will likely have issues when you try to install shocks, especially removing the rear upper bolts. It will be difficult to remove them without breaking them. Rear sway bar retainer bolts are tricky for removal with rust, not to mention your main belly skid bolts. The transmission skid bolts will need to come out when you drop the transmission pan to change the filter. I could go on...control arm bolt removal and so forth.

In contrast, I bought a jeep from Georgia and it is really nice to work on. I don't use penetrating oil or heat and can remove bolts using just a basic amount of care.

There you go! Ha, even a Buckeye says no go. I agree, first TJ with that much trouble, they’re a love hate even without the rust and a life long Jeep addiction like mine, and the Hate is …..too often, ha
 

Mike Z

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There you go! Ha, even a Buckeye says no go. I agree, first TJ with that much trouble, they’re a love hate even without the rust and a life long Jeep addiction like mine, and the Hate is …..too often, ha

I am with you, brother. That rusty TJ wore me out with soaking every last bolt/nut with penetrating oil days before the work was to be done. Not to mention using heat and removing every bolt by carefully and methodically working it back and forth 100 times. Let's not leave out the all time favorite...rust in the eyes.
 
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hardtailpan

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It's hard to know from pics, but I see areas of concern. If the price is really good, I'd dig into it further. You need to go all around the frame, especially in the known weak areas, and bang on it a bit. I use a pointed chipping hammer. You don't have to swing it too hard, and you will feel immediately if you hit a soft area as its like hitting foam instead of steel, and the hammer will likely sink thru the frame. Ask the owner before you do this of course. If the hammer goes thru the frame, you didn't make anything worse, it was already no good. Stick your finger in all the holes and feel around. If it feels rough and rusty, that's an issue. If it's full of shit (many are) that's an issue. Poke between the skid plate and frame with a screwdriver, if it goes thru, try to see if it's going into the frame or just between skid and frame (some years have a small gap). As the other poster said, a endoscope can really help. Check all the floor pans and torque boxes as well. These are thinner metal, you don't need to bang on them, it will be pretty obvious if they are rusted thru. Pull up the carpet and look from underneath. Look at the tops of the front fenders, rocker panels, etc. With this much scale, you will run into rusted bolts, breaking bolts, definitely rear upper shock bolt issues, etc so be warned.

If you take your time and do all of this right, and it looks good, it *might* be worth purchasing, but I'd want it cheap due to the scaling. Read that as around $4k, preferably less. This is assuming it runs and drives well with no obvious mechanical issues.
 
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Chris

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Hi - interested in getting my first Wrangler. Always wanted one and now one has popped up for sale right down the street. I know rust can be an issue on these but is this too much for a frame? I'm just using it to cruise around town on the weekends...not much more than that. Any thoughts are appreciated!

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I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that is too much rust. Stay FAR away from that bucket.
 

BlueC

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Thank you all SO much for your input. I have already run so far away from this thing that I can barely still hear any of you. The search goes on. Have a great weekend!

For future reference, when you see rust bubbles under the paint, the repair area will be at least 4x the visible size.

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To repair what I see above, that entire rocker panel would need to be stripped, cut and welded, then the side of the Jeep will need to be painted from the front fender to 1/2 way down the rear quarter to make it right. Who knows what will be found under the flare (more rust). Then there is the under body rust...
 
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hardtailpan

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Thank you all SO much for your input. I have already run so far away from this thing that I can barely still hear any of you. The search goes on. Have a great weekend!

I think this was the right thing to do. As I said, it *might* be ok, but you'd have to do the due diligence. @Chris is our host here and a west coast guy, so he will run away from anything with any rust, as he should. This thing might be workable, but you will have issues working on it with the rust. If you have and are good with a torch (read oxy acetelyne, not propane), and a wire feed, and the jeep was cheap as I mentioned, then it might have been worth it. If the frame is at all suspect, needs repair, or is simply no good, I wouldn't touch it no matter how cheap it is.

I have two, one from Mass and one from Florida. The Mass one has rust issues but no frame rust issues, the frame is excellent, and it was super cheap. The Florida one is completely rust free and is a pleasure to work on and crawl under (no rust in the eyes!).

Pay the money and get a rust free one, you won't be disappointed!